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A sad example of how non-profits eventually lose their way, and focus only on preserving and extending their sway.
That’s how Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media, publisher of the ‘animal series’ of computing books, describes ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).
ICANN is responsible for managing the internet DNS (Domain Name System). The DNS co-ordinates the transfer of information between computers on all the internet domains .com, .org etc. It also has the power to select delegates to administer domains, like the country-level suffixes .uk, .us and .it (Italy).
Right now ICANN is taking applications for new gTLDS (generic Top Level Domains). These will be at the same level as .com. By January 2013, we could be surfing to windows.microsoft and office.microsoft, instead of microsoft.com; store.apple, icloud.apple and itunes.apple, instead of apple.com.
gTLDs will effectively give corporations a slice of the internet to run, with their very own extension. ICANN gets a fee for every internet name registered. If more names are available, there will be more registrations and so more fees.
The gTLD project will dramatically increase the number of possible website names and have some other implications. As ICANN says:
The increase in number of gTLDs into the root is not expected to affect the way the Internet operates, but it will, for example, potentially change the way people find information on the Internet or how businesses plan and structure their online presence.
Owners of these new generic domains will also be able to sell on domain names, to you and me. Australian ISP iiNet have gone public, with details of their application to do this. That does mean there will be more opportunities to get the website name you want, for example, tonygallacher.iiNet.
Some, like Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, have their reservations; and she doesn’t pull her punches:
ICANN plows forward with their extortionist scheme to enrich the anointed “gold rush domainer” domain-industrial complex with a plethora of new top-level domains (gTLDs) — regardless of the massive confusion and expenses this causes to the vast majority of the Internet community
ICANN is facing mounting pressure from some heavy-weights, who are making themselves heard. The UN, the IMF, Samsung, Adobe, The Coca-Cola Company, Dell, Ford and, of course, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have all formally registered their objections.
The companies argue that they will have to spend heavily, buying up domains to protect their respective brands. The application process alone costs $185,000. There’s a £25,000 a year renewal fee.
Mike Silber is a member of ICANN’s board of directors. He is in favour of gTLDs but abstained from voting on the motion to proceed with the gTLD programme. Here are a couple of enlightening excerpts from his voting statement:
As the Board sat in workshop last night heading towards midnight and still working on substantive issues, I could not conclude that policy was being developed based on facts and on a bottom-up basis. In particular, it is my view that all aspects of the competition implications of the manner of the introduction of new gTLDs and, in particular, the issue of separation between registries and registrars and the impact on both existing and new registries and registrars has not been comprehensively resolved.
I cannot bring myself to vote in the affirmative for a resolution that is brought to the Board now based on artificial and ego-driven deadlines.
The contract to manage the DNS is up for renewal. ICANN’s application was rejected on March 9, even though they are the incumbent; even though they were the only applicant. There will now have to be a new request for proposals, at a future date.
The organisation is now facing too much opposition, from too many quarters. I expect the current plan for gTLDs to be scrapped, or at least postponed, and then dramatically scaled back.
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